Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Perfection of Imperfection

We all have made mistakes that we remember with embarrassment and even shame. Rabbi Kushner, in his book How Good Do We Have To Be?, says that making mistakes is not remarkable. What is remarkable is how vivid our memories of these mistakes can be and how these memories can still trigger such intense emotion. He gives the example of missing a word in a spelling bee. He still remembers the word and how he misspelled it. I misspelled “parade” in the fourth grade. I spelled it “prade.” I can’t remember whether I already gave the dog her medicine tonight, but I can remember how I misspelled a word half a century ago. And I’m still embarrassed about it.

Today is Mother’s Day. My youngest child just turned 18. I can look back over my parenting years and quickly call to mind several incidents from years ago that to this day make me cringe. My chest feels tight and I want to crawl in a hole. I pray that my children will not recall these things during their future therapy sessions which I’m sure they will need as a result of my failings.

The memories of mistakes come unbidden and still have the power to hurt. I have to use my brain to rationally remind myself that I managed to spell enough words correctly to represent my class in the spelling bee. I have to remind myself that today all five of my children spoke lovely words of appreciation to me, rather than “Hey, Mom, remember when you ...?”

A Course in Miracles teaches us that perception is a mirror, not a fact. What we perceive is our state of mind, reflected outward. Rabbi Kushner says that when we define ourselves by our worst moments instead of our best, we see ourselves as never good enough rather than as good, capable people who make occasional mistakes like everybody else.

In her book Taking the Leap, Pema Chodron encourages us to change our habits of perception. In every day, for example, there are moments that are not perfect as well as moments that please us. Instead of labeling the day as bleak, we can cherish the moments of joy. Gradually, we can appreciate our lives as they are, with all the ups and downs. And we can appreciate ourselves as we are, with all our imperfections.

As quoted by Rabbi Kusher, “Imperfection is the wound that lets God in.” Or more simply, “I’m not okay, and you’re not okay, but that’s okay.” It’s better than okay. It’s perfect.

1 comment:

  1. Well said, Galen! The last thing I need is yet another item on my to-do list, or another thing to feel guilty about. Finding happiness shouldn't be a chore. -Rob Bednark


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